Monday, February 28, 2011

Units! Units! Units!

Just wanted to make 20 posts in February.

Hey, sometimes I think in numbers instead of quality, especially when time is scarce. Sound familiar?

A conversation I had today

Me: "Hi. Who do I talk to about getting a transcript?"

Her: "I can do it. ID please?"

"Oh, I'm not a student."

"Then you don't have a transcript."

"Really? Don't you keep it on record?"

"Oh! You WERE a student."

"Yeah."

Sigh.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Regarding guns and self-defense

(Inspired by this conversation)

Many people who harp on self-defense talk about needing to carry guns to protect themselves, their family, their property, etc. Just in case they find themselves in a situation where force (or the threat thereof) is required, and the authorities either aren't around or can't be bothered.

It's a deep, deep burden, no doubt.

This reminds me of something I've written about before, contemplating how many fringe religious leaders and political extremists adhere to principles that just happen to jibe perfectly with they want to do (manifest destiny, command their wife and family, assault children in the name of God, etc.). Same thing with civilian gun enthusiasts. I've never heard anyone say, "I hate guns and think that America has too much gun lust. Violence is not the answer. Nevertheless, I pack a piece." Almost to a person, the people I know who talk the most about the need to "defend" are the ones who elevate guns to God and family status. And it's specifically a firearm fetish; they aren't exactly Debbie Downer when it comes to other theoretical dangers, like car accidents or natural disasters. Or, for that matter, what harm unsecured guns could do in the house. After all, guns don't kill people. People kill people. Hence the need for more heat!

I can't help but feel like those who harp on self-defense the most are the ones who want to prove that they can. Because more than with other defense scenarios, brandishing firearms is a sexy American fantasy. There's a reason you see it so much in movies and on TV.

If that's just an incorrect observation on my part, then I'll be happy to be wrong. But somehow I doubt it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

How is hair like a rapper? When it's Too Short

So a student at Willard High in Willard, Missouri (current home of John Ashcroft), was recently disciplined for what school administrators deemed an ‘excessive’ haircut.

So what brand of hairdo did this filthy hippie sport? A Marine-style shave. I couldn’t make that up.

I’m not even sure what to say about this. It’s just so...absurd. But given the busybody ethic of many school boards, disciplining a student over a military haircut is only a logical, inevitable end.

It’s occasionally been said that I have a problem with authority. But I don’t. I respect any leadership that balances experience with intelligence, intuition and a respect for the governed. Unjustified power trips are what rub me the wrong way, especially in a situation (such as public schools) where a captive audience has no say in the proceedings. Combine that with the religious-conservative push to take over school boards and the resultant tendency to make mountains out of longstanding molehills, and school authorities can sometimes represent the absolute worst models of leadership. And this is often the first encounter our young, budding citizens have with public authority.

Before my senior year of high school, in 1997, a new superintendent took over in Lafayette Parish, Michael Zolkoski. He was repeatedly praised as a man who would “get things done.” For those of you not familiar with south Louisiana political culture or school boards pretty much anywhere, “get things done” can be defined as such:

Get things done (verb) — 1) The appearance of getting things done, irrespective of whether such is actually the case; 2) Concentrating on superfluous decisions in lieu of less-sexy yet lasting change; 3) A cue for students to bend over, because here it comes again; 4) (Archaic) The act of getting things done.

Zolkoski’s primary mission took the form of a more stringent dress code. I’d been in the Lafayette Parish school system since before I turned 4 years old, and in that time I saw lots of changes to the dress code that even as a child I thought were patently ridiculous. And that was before it went into hyperdrive.

Somebody please explain to me why it’s such a sin for students to wear shorts after fifth grade. Please? I’m almost 31 years old and I still don’t get it!

Anyway, the man we called Dr. Z (when we students weren’t calling him other, less historically flattering names) and the school board came up with some imaginative guidelines. It had long been the case already that middle and high school students couldn’t wear shorts, miniskirts or anything considered obscene. That last one didn’t have a strict definition, but I had a general idea after seeing my friend in 4th grade get pulled aside in the hallway by our teacher and principal for wearing a shirt that said, “I’m Bart Simpson. Who the hell are you?”

Oh, and there were voluntary uniforms, which I thought to be an oxymoron before I knew that word.

Dr. Z upped the ante by curtailing the length of boys’ hair. I think it could just graze the ear, or something stupid like that. And, obviously, no facial hair of any kind. They also further limited what kind of clothes students could wear. The moves sparked a massive student protest in a Lafayette park. I couldn’t attend, because I and my self-shaven head were in St. Martinville for a preseason football scrimmage that my coach forgot to play me in.

My favorite part about the whole dress-code row were the justifications that the school board gave for the changes. Actual quotes elude me, but they generally bypassed the usual tripe about the need to maintain order and civility. Instead they were saying things like, if you want to make a statement, make it with your grades and that long hair and outlandish fashion were distracting.

Yeah, distracting. Because spending all of your time in class talking about how stupid rules are (with your teachers largely agreeing) isn’t distracting. Because worrying about getting busted for a stray lock of hair because you can’t afford a haircut isn’t distracting. Because that boy from Comeaux High who refused to cut his hair, making news and ultimately wearing a wig (and then getting beaten up) isn’t distracting. Yeah.

Some board member justified more conservative dress (which after my time led to mandatory uniforms) by saying that students should not judge one another by looks, but by what’s inside. Which sounds noble in principle, but people aren’t books. Sometimes you can judge them by their covers. Accurately. There’s also that whole issue of learning to deal with people in the real world. Which some kids will be surprised to find aren’t all wearing suits and ties come diploma time (and that not everyone who wears a suit and tie, or even most of them, necessarily have their best interests at heart).

In a nutshell, there is absolutely no reliable indicator of who you can trust in this world other than interaction and simple intuition. And students won’t develop a strong sense of intuition through being shielded from the big bad world. But in the attempt, they might just learn that adults can be every bit as petty and unreasonable as the worst high school stereotypes.

And that is a valuable lesson indeed. But I suspect not the one that they think they’re teaching.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Can't hardly weight

My weight on Feb. 9, 2007, one day after I started my last job and the day I got my most recent driver's license: 151.

My weight one year later, as weighed by a doctor I went to see for heart palpitations: 177.

My weight right now, after 11 days of unemployment, decreased eating, increased bike riding and two hours a day on Wii Fit Plus: 159.

Man, unemployment is AWESOME!

"Redundant" stresses just the right syllable

So today I called my bank in Missouri to let them know I moved, and to give them my new address. I tried to do it when I was still in Springfield, but I never had time.

The bank representative told me that the only way to formally change the address was to fill out and sign a form, which I could do at any of the bank's locations. The problem, I told him, was that I moved out of state and thus no longer had access to any of the regional bank's branches.

In that case, he said, the bank could mail the form to me. All he needed was my new address.

Ah, life. You make a little more sense every day.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

#awfulsupergroups

Men Without Hats at Work

Black Flag Peas

George Michael Jackson

Kanye Go West

Pet Shop Boyz II Men

Garth Brooks & Dunn

Big & Rich & Hall & Oates

Ol' Dirty Spice Girls

“Weird Al” Green

Busta Poindexter

Jay-ZZ Top

Phunk Monkeez

Carly Simon Cowell

Pointer Sisters of Mercy

Wilson Phillips Overdrive

Biebergarden

Living Colour Prince

Ben Folds Maroon 5ive

Eve Devo

AC/DC Peniston

KIS$ha

BLACKstreet Boys

Nickelblaque

Jars of Clay Aiken

Steve “Katy” Perry

Eminemadonna

Ludacristopher Kross

P!nk Nashville Pussy

Take That Poison

C-ELO Green

James Taylor Swift

Poco Harum

Def Zeppelin / Led Leppard

Lynyrd Cohen

Dan Halen

INXSTC

Annie Lennstyx

Notorious R.E.M.

Vanilla Ice Cube

Qween

Breathe, Weezer

Eartha Bizkitt

Korn Bread

Barenaked Lady Gaga

Red Hot Milli Peppers

Huey Lewis and the Stooges

U2ube

Kings of Leona Lewis

Cherry Poppin’ Daddy Yankee

98 Inch Nails

Neil Young Cannibals

Jeffersons of Anarchy

LaBelle Biv Devoe

MercyMetallica

? and the Guess Who

Police Cars

Rage Against the Miami Sound Machine

Grand Funkadelic Railroad

The Young Rascal Flatts

Gerry and the Ace of Basemakers

Sly and the Family Stone Temple Pilots

Perry Keb’ Mo’

Barry White Zombie

Cheap Trick Astley

Talk Talking Heads

Fixx Animals

Fall Out Boy George

Fogheart

Britney Queers

Crosby, Stills, Clash, Wang Chung

Pearl Wham!

Blog

Lots of interesting things going on in the world right now. I have opinions about them. What do you think?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I want to help you

As many of you know by now, I resigned from my job in Missouri last week and moved back to Louisiana. I'm hoping to find full-time and/or freelance writing work, preferably in Baton Rouge or New Orleans, or online. But I'm not ruling out other areas or fields if the gig is right.

To that end, I've decided to write up a list of my positive aspects, and why potential employers should take notice. This took a while to write, because in terms of describing myself, I can be pretty humble and self-deprecating. Also, there was a lot to list!

They say a cover letter should be only one page long. Fortunately, this is the Internet, so this is less than a page long, technically speaking.

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog already know how awesome I am. But for those of you who don't, or who want to know more, here's what you should know about me:

I’m educated. When I say college was seven of the best years of my life, it’s not because I partied like Bluto Blutarsky. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism (2002) and a master’s degree in English (2005) from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and plan one day to obtain a doctorate. I have an insatiable hunger for learning that hasn’t abated since I finished school.

I’m trained. If I had a Wikipedia entry, it could reasonably say my active years are 1993-present. My first experience as a journalist was as a writer and reporter for my middle school newspaper in 8th grade. I took the class because, at the end of 7th grade, I had turned in my schedule request too late and all I could get was my third-choice elective, journalism. I barely knew what the class did, but it turned out to be a perfect fit.

I researched stories (my first was a history of recorded music from wax cylinders to CDs), conducted interviews (I had special permission to carry around a tape recorder), drew cartoons and even did a schoolwide survey on music tastes. I later served as the co-editor in chief (and writer/cartoonist/designer) of my high school newspaper, during which time we made it an all-digital production and gave it its first-ever color covers.

As a first-semester freshman in college, I joined the UL Vermilion weekly as their youngest staff writer. I broke my first front-cover story soon afterward. I stayed a year and wrote for a month in 2001, then rejoined in 2002 as the liberal columnist. I served in that position until 2005, a span of 99 issues. That position — and the discussion it always sparked — led to the creation of this blog in 2004. Whether or not I’m working in the field at a given moment, I always crave an outlet for written expression.

Since college, I’ve worked for some of the largest dailies in Louisiana and Missouri. I have worked as a news reporter, a government stringer, a political columnist, a sports writer, a copy editor and a website editor.

I’m loyal. I do not work for a company, firm or team unless I believe in their mission or cause and my role in it. I’m as interested in your reputation as I am my own. And I adhere to all ethical and writing standards the job calls for.

I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty, either. I worked for seven years as the equipment manager for the UL track team, along with other physically demanding jobs, while pursuing freelance writing and video work on the side.

I’m indispensable. I’ve never been fired from any job. Nor have I been laid off. When I’ve left a job, I’ve almost always had someone say a variation of, “this place won’t be the same without you around.” I’m not quick to leave a good gig, but I try to leave it in better shape when I do.

I’m healthy. I am very physically active and I watch what I eat. I didn’t call in sick a single day in four years at my most recent position. That, combined with my ruthless work ethic, means you can count on me.

I’m passionate. I have tremendously diverse interests and I’ll light up talking about any of them. Politics. Sports. Facebook. Exercise. Nutrition. Cars. Television. Books. Travel. Games. Computers. I’m not your garden-variety couch potato.

I get around. I’m hardly a homebody. I love to travel, and it’s something I feel like I don’t do nearly enough. I’m the kind of person who will go visit someone rather than call them on the phone. I have friends and connections all over the country.

I live in the now. The Internet might be endangering journalism’s enduring business models, but the demand for journalism itself is stronger than ever. In an age where literally anyone can say what they want online, it’s up to an educated, connected and savvy media to serve as guardians for the truth and for informed opinion. It’s a huge yet important responsibility, one that will require fearless, forward-thinking people.

I’m game.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My interview with God Almighty

The other day, I posed a list of questions I would want to ask God. Well, God works in mysterious ways, this time meaning through Twitter. I asked @G_O_D_Almighty to take me through this weird thing called life, and he happily obliged. Here are his answers:

I hope you understand that the reason we don’t capitalize your pronouns in the media is because Associated Press style mandates that we don’t. Also, we’re liberal. Can You forgive Us?

Yes.

Who spoke for you in the intervening eons before your word became the exclusive province of right-wing American political hypocrites?

Nobody.

Do you really bless every single person who sneezes? Seems like that would eat significantly into your gay-hating time.

No and I don't hate gays specifically.

Why do the bad guys seem to triumph so much these days, when the Transformers cartoons I grew up watching so clearly stated that the Autobots always win?

Autobots don't exist to defeat bad guys.

What is it with you and Tom Brady? How can you cram so much good fortune into one human being? And why does it have to be him?

I'm sorry about Tom Brady. Truly.

While trudging through more than a foot of snow on Super Bowl Sunday, I noticed one set of footprints. But I don’t remember you carrying me. Were you too busy blessing Texas?

Nope, I was messing with Texas that whole week. George W. Bush did NOTHING after I did that. What a pansy.

What, if anything, do you and George W. Bush talk about?

I don't talk to him. He's... nuts....

Did you punish John Denver for “Oh, God”? If you did, that was totally unfair. That film was funny as hell...er...heaven...er...you get the idea.

I punished John Denver for bad singing. I loved "Oh, God" which is why the 2 sequels.

“Dogma” spelled backwards is “amgod.” Was that the idea when you invented English?

I didn't invent English. Long story...

They say cleanliness is next to godliness. If thou shalt have no other gods before you, does that mean clean people are blasphemers?

Cleanliness is NEXT to godliness. Not actual godliness. But your conclusion is witty.

Can you command the Gideons to put Glenn Beck books in every hotel room? I’m not asking you to, I’m just wondering if I have to worry about that.

[No answer]

What’s up with the fish? EHarmony.com?

The fish came from the quote "give a man a fish, teach a man to fish" I wanted NO symbolism of me. Yet people worship a cross.

Not sure what you want to know about EHarmony. I had nothing to do with it.

I have a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner. Am I going to hell?

No you're not going to hell for the Dirt Devil.

Why do you have to be a mystery? Can’t you just be a solid piece of non-fiction once in a while?

The mystery is the lack of symbol thing. I'm solid quite often, you just don't know it.

How do magnets work? 

Magnets work by laws of molecular cohesion. Sadly, earth science only relates that to chemistry right now.

Follow-up question: What kind of benevolent deity tolerates Insane Clown Posse?

If I can tolerate Bieber, Katy Perry, BSB, NKOTB, etc. I can tolerate ICP. Essentially, I don't listen to them.

Final question (for now): Are you for real? Sometimes I hope you are and sometimes I hope you aren’t. I hope you are when I think of the blip of time that man occupies the universe. I hope you aren’t when I get a taste of the insane hardships of the world that occur while some of the most vile people on the planet never seem to receive the slightest bit of karmic comeuppance (and I don’t mean Tom Brady). And if you are real, can you help us out just a little bit? Please?

I'm as real as you'd like to believe, but not in ways that you'd completely understand. George Burns had a great quote at the end of "Oh God": "However hopeless, helpless, mixed up and scary it all gets, it can work."

Reader NOLA Progressive asks: “I'd also like him to explain the popularity of reality TV...I mean really.”

I have no clue why reality tv is big. People are afraid of their own lives and are tired of celebs, I guess.

Thank you for your time, good sir.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A pissy travelogue

I'm not stupid. I keep having to tell myself that.

I spent Sunday afternoon and night driving from Springfield to Shreveport. My original plan was to stop for the night in Texarkana, but I wasn't able to do so. 

It wasn't from lack of trying. After all, I'd seen massive billboards that said things like, "HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS, EXIT 1 ARKANSAS." That was a reassuring sight. I stay at the Holiday Inn whenever I have a choice. For me, hotels are generally an exception to my disdain for big corporate chains. Steve Martin once said that you never see "Fred's Bank," and likewise, "Fred's Hotel" is more likely to be questionable than charming. That isn't to say I haven't stayed at some lovely smaller places, of course, but late at night on some desolate stretch of highway isn't generally ground zero for that.

So, anyway, I bypass Exit 2 to Shreveport to hit Exit 1, where the billboard and an additional highway sign insist that a Holiday Inn is right around the corner, waiting to give me a nice room, quite possibly at the hand of a cute clerk named Rain (that was Kansas City, but I can hope).

But then I take the exit. And not only is it not there for at least a mile in either direction, but NOTHING is there for a mile in either direction. Well, OK, I spot one of the four advertised motels, but it's advertising rooms for $32 a night. Sometimes you get what you pay for.

And no, I'm not stupid. The sign didn't say you had to travel several miles to get to it, and clearly pointed the direction. No dice. Thanks, Texarkana.

OK, I think, I'll have to travel a little further. This thought makes me uneasy, because Texarkana to Shreveport is a wasteland. Put in a portable DVD player and "Mad Max" and you've got yourself a GPS. The last time I had to cross into Louisiana on 71, I almost pissed on myself to save my life. And that was early in the evening in August, when at least a small convenience store hadn't yet closed for the night.

Long story short, I had to go all the way to Shreveport before I had a chance to take a leak, much less find a hotel.

You'd think that one of Louisiana's biggest cities would have plenty of places to stay. And you'd be right — hell, I've stayed there before. So I figure this is going to be a cinch.

So when I see another sign that promises a Holiday Inn, I'm pumped. But upon taking the exit, a second sign advertises all the same hotels — except for the Holiday Inn. Huh? Nice curveball, life. Oh, and I can't find any of those hotels either! At that point, I was ready to stay anywhere. I should probably mention at this point that I had apparently overloaded my car, and as a result had felt every bump in the road since Springfield. So it's an understatement to say I was a bit agitated.

After traveling along the exit intersection for a few miles in both directions, I realized I was in the Blair Witch Twilight Zone (sponsored by Holiday Inn). I pulled over, killed my engine and regained my bearings for a few minutes — by which I mean, I wished violent death on everyone in both Texarkana and Shreveport. Sorry about that, folks.

After getting on 20 West, I hoped for more luck. Upon seeing a sign for hotels, I reverted to full-on street-preacher-skepticism mode. But despite my track record, I eventually found a Fairfield-Marriott that didn't look too transient. The only problem was, I couldn't get to it. Why do some businesses put what appears to be a moat around their parking lot? 

It all made me feel so stupid. But I'm not stupid. Right?

So the point of all of this is, ONE TOILET. Put ONE TOILET on U.S. 71!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

How I spent every Valentine's Day

1980: Weighing a pound and a half in the womb and starting to develop smooth skin and baby fat.

1981: Not getting valentines.

1982: Not getting valentines.

1983: Not getting valentines, but probably sneaking chocolate.

1984: Not getting valentines, but probably being given chocolate.

1985: Sitting in timeout in my preschool while the class makes a V-Day project. This was the only time in a year-and-a-half that I ever had to sit in timeout (there, at least).

1986: Getting and giving valentines.

1987: Getting and giving valentines. I swear I got one that had Daffy Duck saying, "You're despicable!" But you know how my memory is.

1988: Getting and giving valentines. I secretly crushed hard on a girl in my class, and I cradled her generic valentine. She was left-handed like me, and I could see the telltale smudge on her handwriting. Destiny. Wrote a terrible story about it.

1989: Didn't get valentines. My teacher's policy was that if you didn't bring any, you didn't get any (I wonder if this was her romantic policy as well). Somebody signed their valentines "Guess Who?" This fueled intense speculation that "Who" was me, which my repeated denials did not help. And no, it wasn't me. I was too burned out from The Legend of Zelda and George Bush to be clever.

1990: Got valentines, including one from my cousin classmate, which I didn't know how to take.

1991: Got valentines, though I had to enjoy them at home because my teacher insisted that we exchange them in the most quick and efficient manner possible because this science crap isn't going to teach itself.

1992: Probably crushing on a girl who wouldn't talk to me.

1993: Probably crushing on a girl who wouldn't talk to me.

1994: Definitely crushing on a girl who wouldn't talk to me.

1995: Crushing on a girl who turned out to be my cousin by marriage.

1996: Got asked out by a girl on my way out from the cafeteria. Oh, wait, that was April Fool's Day.

1997: Got dumped.

I still have these if anybody wants some.
1998: Went to a dance at another school. Key quote from my date: "Somebody give me a beer or a cigarette NOW!"

1999: In an actual relationship and having an actual romantic weekend. Which for me meant putting on Dave Matthews Band's "Crash" in its entirety and letting it work its magic. I learned later that my brother met Mario Lopez that weekend, and I could have totally been there were it not for that blasted romantic weekend.

2000: Drove 100 miles to reconnect with an old flame. We wound up eating chalupas and watching/making cracks about "Doug."

2001: I'm going to assume a journalism assignment, because that's all I did that year.

2002: Not loving Osama bin Laden, that's for sure.

2003: Met a future flame around this time, which is a good time because you don't have to go all-out on the big day yet.

2004: Crushing on a girl who would talk to me, but not in that way.

2005: Posted a computer rendering of an actual heart on my blog.

2006: Dick Cheney shoots someone in the face just in time to inspire one of my sicker historical pick-up lines.

2007: Adjusting to my new job in Missouri and realizing that my Southern charm doesn't work here. Or that I never really had any. One of those.

2008: Probably working. And eating chocolate.

2009: Seeing someone casually, but we didn't do anything.

2010: Probably crushing on some girl who wouldn't talk to me.

2011: Awoke in a hotel room in a strange city, which is less illicit and exciting than it sounds.

Here you go.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What motivates me

Sometime during my college years, a local woman about my age died in what I consider one of the saddest and most random ways possible. She had gone out to a club and met a couple, who offered her their place to sleep off her partying. She accepted. The apartment complex then caught fire, and she died as a result.

A newspaper profile of the woman who died started with something along the lines of, “She was just another country girl.” Her friends and family talked about her love for going out and how she’d often crash with people she’d just befriended.

The main anecdote in the story was a friend’s recollection of how the girl was always losing her driver’s license, because she’d put it in her jeans pocket and it would often pop out while she was out dancing. The friend said she went through four or five licenses a year.

If I recall correctly, contributing to the woman’s death was that she was trying to rescue the host couple’s baby. If that’s the case, then she deserves to be remembered for that.

Still, the story made me think about my own life. Chuck Klosterman once said that everyone’s remembered in one sentence after they die. I think that’s true. This woman will always be remembered as the party girl who tried to save the baby of a couple she’d just met. Not a bad way to go. But a sad way to live.

I told myself at the time that I want to make a difference somehow. I’m still trying to figure out how, but the pursuit keeps me going. I hope that, whenever and however I go, I’ll be remembered for something substantial that I did in life. I don’t ever want to be “just another” anything.

What will you be remembered for?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Questions I'd like to ask God

I hope you understand that the reason we don’t capitalize your pronouns in the media is because Associated Press style mandates that we don’t. Also, we’re liberal. Can You forgive Us?

Who spoke for you in the intervening eons before your word became the exclusive province of right-wing American political hypocrites?

Do you really bless every single person who sneezes? Seems like that would eat significantly into your gay-hating time.

Why do the bad guys seem to triumph so much these days, when the Transformers cartoons I grew up watching so clearly stated that the Autobots always win?

What is it with you and Tom Brady? How can you cram so much good fortune into one human being? And why does it have to be him?

While trudging through more than a foot of snow on Super Bowl Sunday, I noticed one set of footprints. But I don’t remember you carrying me. Were you too busy blessing Texas?

What, if anything, do you and George W. Bush talk about?

Did you punish John Denver for “Oh, God”? If you did, that was totally unfair. That film was funny as hell...er...heaven...er...you get the idea.

“Dogma” spelled backwards is “amgod.” Was that the idea when you invented English?

They say cleanliness is next to godliness. If thou shalt have no other gods before you, does that mean clean people are blasphemers?

Can you command the Gideons to put Glenn Beck books in every hotel room? I’m not asking you to, I’m just wondering if I have to worry about that.

What’s up with the fish? EHarmony.com?

I have a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner. Am I going to hell?

Why do you have to be a mystery? Can’t you just be a solid piece of non-fiction once in a while?

How do magnets work? Follow-up question: What kind of benevolent deity tolerates Insane Clown Posse?

Final question (for now): Are you for real? Sometimes I hope you are and sometimes I hope you aren’t. I hope you are when I think of the blip of time that man occupies the universe. I hope you aren’t when I get a taste of the insane hardships of the world that occur while some of the most vile people on the planet never seem to receive the slightest bit of karmic comeuppance (and I don’t mean Tom Brady). And if you are real, can you help us out just a little bit?

Please?

(Before anybody rides me for this post, let me just say that I think any god out there has got to have a sense of humor. Or at least the thickest skin there is. If not, why would we?)

Title Town Talk

Now that the Green Bay Packers are Super Bowl champions, I keep hearing a lot about how the Lombardi Trophy is "back where it belongs."

I hate talk like that. But it's hard to dislike a pro team that's publicly owned in such a small market. So good for them.

I wonder, though, how different history might have been if the Chiefs had won the first Super Bowl. Or the Saints (yes, I know they started the season after). Imagine the Tom Fears Trophy!

And don't forget that Joe Lombardi is Drew Brees' position coach. Is blood thicker than boundaries? I think it is. Hey, Green Bay! Bring the trophy back where it belongs!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Post-Super Bowl notebook

• I'm glad I watched this game with friends. That's probably the only reason I didn't turn it off in the first half and miss the more-interesting second half. Being in a room divided between teams added a competitive, albeit friendly, element to the evening.

• Obviously, this game was not going to top last year's for a Saints fan like me. I knew that going in. In recent years, we've had several interesting (to me, anyway) story lines:

XLIV - Saints win in first Super Bowl
XLIII - Cardinals lose first Super Bowl in final play of game
XLII - Wild-card Giants beat unbeatable Patriots
XLI - Colts beat Bears in first rainy Super Bowl
XL - Seahawks lose their first Super Bowl

Packers-Steelers combines a lot of history, so it had that going for it, at least. But after the past several years of genuinely riveting games, it was pretty much a letdown by design for me.

• I pulled for Green Bay, but I didn't feel like either team played to the potential both showed during the season. Neither team did anything remotely innovative, which I guess makes sense considering that they both struggled with basic plays like screen passes and kicks. Somebody could have done a reverse, at least. Oh, and there were enough teammates running into each other for an entire season of Tosh.0 web redemptions.

• This is perhaps the first Super Bowl where I noticed the tackling. It seemed to take one of two forms: 1) dramatic flipping and/or leveling; or 2) no wrapping-up at all. Green Bay in particular seemed more interesting in forcing a turnover than stopping the Pittsburgh ball-carriers. Granted, the Pack got several turnovers, but a few more tackles might have made this a 42-0 ballgame.

• I'm pretty sure Mike Tomlin's beard visibly grew over the course of the game.

• Seeing Clay Matthews and Kevin Greene together blew my mind. I haven't seen that much collective blond hair occupying the same space since the Nelson brothers were popular.

• Speaking of Nelson, I kept wanting to make a pair of pop-culture references every time Jordy Nelson made (or almost made) a play: 1) Little Jordy, the 5-year-old French pop phenom from the early '90s who became a symbol of child labor; and 2) "Nelson is back," a nod to a book my brother and I had as kids, "Miss Nelson is Back." But I seriously doubt any of my friends would have registered either reference. I know way too much obscure trivia. I should write for SportsCenter.

• Oh, Fox. I like Cletus the robot. I like your hosts and announcers, even if they make me cringe at times. But this lengthy spate of ads for your own shows reminded me of those filler ads in phone books that say, "Find it here in the Yellow Pages!" Not that the commercials themselves were much better. Maybe we've raised the bar too high for clever spots, but only a few even approached qualifying height. And I'm saying that as someone who watches the Super Bowl for the game.

Not to mention, I was absolutely floored to see two separate commercials that featured hits to the nuts, and I wasn't watching ESPN Classic.

And will Fox and every other network please stop trying to tie football games to their prime-time shows? If I wanted to watch American Glee Idol, I would. This is indicative of a larger trend, one that's probably inevitable these days but is still annoying: trying to pull in all demographics. Frankly, I hate this trend. It's cool to try to have something for everyone, but don't overdo it. There seems to be an aftertaste of cross-promotional barf in everything these days. I'm ready for some football! And the Gleeks are ready for Glee. Church and state, baby.

• I confused half the movie trailers for other movies. For a few brief seconds on Sunday night, I thought "Avatar 2" and "Indiana Jones 5" were opening in 2011. Thanks for the false hope, Hollywood!

• I physically recoiled the first time I heard the Black Eyed Peas were going to play the halftime show. I was driving at the time and that could have turned out very badly. I have nothing against the Black Eyed Peas and even like many of their songs, but the booking just screamed, "overcompensation." It seems like they've never been able to find a good balance for the halftime shows. First they were too pedestrian, then they were too risque, then they were too old, and now they may have skewed too young. I think this is only going to get worse as boomer acts age and today's stars have increasingly narrower audiences. That said, however, I am eager to see how future halftime shows play out. I'd like them even to consider non-musical acts, just to try something different. I can dream, can't I?

• ESPN - I see your graphic says, "Moving on beyond Favre." Maybe you should try it!

• Tonight's game did get interesting near the end. It'll be one that Packers and Steelers fans aren't likely to forget, though I'll probably find myself Googling it in a few years as I sometimes have to do. 

At least I got invited to three parties this year. Last year, my Missouri friends didn't want to be with the intense Saints fan. I don't blame them. This time, at least, I got in my long-overdue trash-talking with the Colts fan. Made the whole event worthwhile.

I'm a Packer this weekend, part 2

Go Packers!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

I'm a packer this weekend

I've been keeping this on the down-low for awhile, but I might as well get it out there:

I'm moving back to Louisiana next week.

No, I don't really have a plan yet. I didn't have the luxury of mapping one out like I wanted to, but I'm hopeful nonetheless. I have a bunch of awesome friends looking out for me, sending me job ads and positive reinforcement. Not to mention my family is giving me somewhere to crash for the time being.

I'm not sure if this development is going to curb my blogging or increase it tenfold. If my past post counts are any indicators, it'll probably be tenfold.

Currently, I'm working on a list of reasons why I'm awesome. It's a long-term project. Yep.

I'm focusing my efforts on media in Baton Rouge or New Orleans. But I'll sweep floors if it means I can pursue writing on the side. Should be interesting times ahead.

And now, back to packing.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

How God works

Thanks in part to some upcoming changes in my life, I have been really busy lately. Too busy to get my workout on at the Y. I usually go three days a week at minimum, so to go four days without going makes me feel gross.

I've been working day shifts all week, so I get the rare treat of having options after work. So, of course, a historic blizzard has to smack the entire Midwest, covering it in a two-foot-thick blanket of snarl. I live across town from my job, so the commute was long and at times frightening. The windshield wouldn't stay clear for anything, but it was a moot point because there was nothing to see but white anyway. I had to keep checking my mirrors just to reassure myself that I did, in fact, still have functioning eyes.

Things only got worse throughout the day, and co-workers were imploring me not to take the drive back home if I had any other options. As it turns out, I had one: a married couple I'm friends with (who live a few blocks from my workplace) offered their place for the night. I take them up on their offer. One of my co-workers who lives near me (and had just braved a ride home) called and reminded me to stay with them, because she didn't think my car would handle the full trip home. I jokingly scoffed, but after warming up my car and scraping off the kudzu-like snow for half an hour (going through my second pair of shoes in the process), I concurred.

I've been to my friends' apartment several times. It's a short, easy drive from my job. I looked forward to hunkering down there for the night, hanging out, playing games and eating some healthy cuisine. 

A couple of things I hadn't considered: 1) most of the short drive is uphill; 2) the city was still trying to clear major arteries and had yet to come anywhere near these deserted downtown streets; 3) the city seemed to operate under the admittedly understandable premise that no one left their bedrooms that day, and anyone who did deserved anything they got.

In other words, the downtown streets had become canvasses for the lovely natural work of art known as snow dunes. And my car is about as effective against those as, well, a dune buggy. I stalled close to five times in a three-block radius. At one point, I stalled in front of a frat house, and a frat guy banged on my driver's side door. This marked the only time I was ever relieved to hear someone doing that in this area.

"Where are you headed?" Frat Boy asked. 
"Anywhere that I can not get stuck," I replied. 
"No, seriously."
"Seriously. I'm trying to get to South Avenue, so however I can get there without this repeatedly happening."
"Well, you're not gonna find any place like that." (Someone's local.)
"Heh."

To his credit, Frat Boy pushed me out of my predicament, and I managed to make it nearly a full block before I got stuck again, right in the geographic middle of an intersection. This time, no one helped, and I had to shovel my way out. The shovel cracked nearly in half from the weight of the snow.

Then it happened again a few blocks later. Two guys noticed, but one kept on walking. The other guy offered, but I told him with resignation that it wasn't necessary because it'd just happen again in 10 feet. Didn't even break stride.

I decided to abort the plan to visit my friends and head on home, which sits along a major artery. The "close" option was taking far too long and soaking up too much of my tolerance. It was my second consecutive night of scuttling fun plans. Thanks, blizzard!

After a relatively uneventful commute on the expressway (save for the stranded Jeep with oversized wheels that appeared to have lost one), I get as close as three feet from a parking space when my car gets stuck in the middle of the parking lot. Really, really stuck. So stuck that I actually leave it on two separate occasions to go inside to warm up, get some water, etc. As you might expect, no one noticed, even with the hazard flashers in full strobe.

So I spent the next 45 minutes shoveling snow out of the undercarriage of my car, working hard to ensure I could see the bottom half of my wheels once again. I tried to move the car about 38 times, but it wouldn't budge, so I'd shovel some more. And some more. Shovel down, foot plant, slight bend, swing arms over my shoulder and toss snow. It didn't take too long to feel sore and worn out. It didn't help that my left ankle is all purple and swollen from a Sunday flag-football injury. Eventually, a neighbor walked out and helped push my car (very gradually) into the adjacent spot. We shared a snide laugh about how much our other neighbors suck in times of need.

So I got a long-overdue workout, a natural ice pack for my ankle and a chance to vent about how terrible everything is to someone who understands. And that's how God works.

And that's why I'm agnostic.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Ill-fitting elements (and a pretty picture)

The snow is blowing hard right now. It's the most I've ever seen in my life, quite possibly including in movies.

I don't get to enjoy it/sleep in. I have to work an atypical morning shift in a field that only ups its workload on days when everyone else is happy to do nothing. Yay.

On Saturday, I visited the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City with a friend. I'd never been there before. She took this picture as the sun set, though you can barely see me at all. I guess that's an appropriate metaphor.


It's for the best anyway. Bundling up doesn't flatter me. I'm meant for shorts, a T-shirt, a bike and a pool. I'm lousy at hibernating and wearing enough clothes to hamper my mobility. At least we got some sunshine this weekend. That treasured memory will get me through this week of blizzard fun.

Have a safe day, everybody.